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17 Jan, 2024 21:09

African islands rocked by riots (VIDEOS)

Police and protesters clashed in Comoros after the country’s president won a fourth term in office
African islands rocked by riots (VIDEOS)

Protests, clashes, and arson broke out in Moroni, the capital of Comoros, on Wednesday following the disputed reelection of President Azali Assoumani. Demonstrators blocked roads and ransacked a former minister’s house, claiming that the vote was rigged.

President Azali Assoumani won a fourth term in office on Tuesday, when state electoral officials declared that he had taken 62.97% of the vote in an election on Sunday. All five opposition candidates disputed this result, claiming in a joint statement that Assoumani stuffed ballot boxes and used his military to intimidate voters.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Moroni on Wednesday, blocking roads with furniture and burning tires. Police fired tear gas at demonstrators, and were met with a hail of stones and bricks in return. Multiple arrests were made, AFP reported.

The house of a former minister was vandalized and set on fire, according to AFP. Video footage shared on X (formerly Twitter) showed a car on fire outside the ex-minister’s mansion, while multiple vehicles were seen burned out at a government facility.

Assoumani declared a curfew on Wednesday evening, claiming that the unrest was stirred up by opposition parties. 

In a statement on Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called on Assoumani to “ensure a safe environment, where all Comorians … can freely express their views and exercise their right to peaceful assembly.” Turk also called on demonstrators to refrain from violence and vandalism.

Situated in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar, Comoros is made up of three islands, with Moroni located on the largest of these islands, Grande Comore. 

The country has seen more than two dozen coups d’etat since it gained independence from France in 1975, with Assoumani seizing power in a military putsch in 1999. A former army general, Assoumani transitioned to civilian rule when he won an election in 2002, before he retired from politics in 2006. He came out of retirement and was elected president again in 2016 and 2019.